Mommy Wars – A Digital Fantasy

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We’re in the midst of a baby boom. High flying women everywhere are swapping their Fendi clutches for nappy carry bags and their Manolo stilletos for sensible Birkenstocks, at least in some “Sex and the City” type fantasy.  All things “baby” are “hot right now” and parenthood is a prime time meme. Newspapers assault us with innumerable soft articles about how it feels to be a parent. We cant even escape into Hollywood films with the latest blockbusters being the vomitatious ( I just made that word up)  What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Friends With Kids.

For me the most annoying aspect to this trend is the media’s attempt to incite “Mommy Wars”.  Several times a week it seems there is an article pitting working Mums against stay at home Mums, breast feeding against formula etc spawning cascades of enraged comment on the blogosphere.

Earlier this year in the USA, a Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made the following ill advised comment about Ann Romney the wife of the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.”

Predictably the media swooped on this lapse of judgement like a flock of seagulls on a hot chip and the blogosphere went into hyperdrive. These comments from USAtoday.com typify the “debate”.

“Messing with mothers is like messing with a grizzly bear; ignorant. Giving birth to 5 children is a feat in and of itself. Making the sacrifice to stay home and raise your kids is something everyone should admire. Maybe if kids actually had parents raising them the world wouldn’t be so jacked up.”

versus

“It is not a sacrifice. It’s a choice. And why should it be admired. I admire moms that work and raise their kids well. Staying at home isn’t hard. “

Seriously how many normal people subscribe to such extreme views? To suggest that those selfish mothers in paid work are causing a tsunami of delinquency and dysfunction is prepostrous. As for the second comment, it was written by a man – enough said.

The petty wranglings of US politics are easily ignored. However you would have had to have been living under a rock if you missed THAT cover of TIME magazine back in mid-May.

Here it is again.

For about a week this was the topic du jour absolutely everywhere – day time TV, talk- back radio, old style press and of course the blogosphere. It inspired a series of photoshopped send ups (My favourite  is below). Additionally some men may even have noticed that above the exposed breast is a sub headline about the God of Cricket – the best publicity that Sachin Tendulkar will ever get.

Will this be dragged out at the poor kid’s 21st?

The cover is inflammatory for two reasons. Firstly it plays on the emotionally laden subject of breast feeding. Secondly this Mom is just too damn hot – what a bitch!

Trawling through the miles of commentary, I found some disturbing attitudes lurking beneath the ridicule. Here’s a few examples from The Guardian ;

“I think that so called ‘attachment parenting’ was created by mothers who have children in order to automatically fill a void in their lives by encouraging unnatural dependency. It’s an excuse to not do anything else with your life, a glorified extension of the burnt toast and coffee dedication to motherhood that has never been more than a way out for women who have no other ambitions.”

and

“I think it’s creepy. I know two adults of 27 and 21 who were breast fed to about age five or six and they are weird, creepy (in the sense of being inappropriately sexual all the time) and bizarrely hostile towards their (actually quite nice) mother.”

Conversely we get this sort of thing from the herbal types.

Typical response from uptight persons. Breast feeding is obviously very natural and extremely healthy for the children, building up a strong immune system and a sense of security.”

and

“The oxytocin rush from breastfeeding is quite pleasurable. I’ve never felt anything like it. I can see why a mother can carry on that long. There’s nothing wrong in that. It helps her bond with her child.”

and

“I have a good friend in Switzerland who breastfed her son until he was four. Now he’s eight and is a perfectly normal healthy kid. Nothing creepy about it all. Rather you’ve been conditioned to believe otherwise.”

The problem I have with the whole controversy is the notion that there is some kind of war between breast feeders and bottle feeders. New mothers are bombarded by an avalanche of breastfeeding proganda. The catch-cry being “breast is best”. Nearly all mothers aim to breast feed for as long as they can, stopping only when it is impossible or impractical.  Many mothers (myself included) feel deeply disappointed and guilty when they can’t continue. This negativity is excacerbated by the attitudes of many Early Childcare nurses who push the idea of breast feeding at any cost.

Hardly anyone chooses not to breast feed simply because they cant be bothered. In the real world  our peers understand this and are supportative.  On the other hand, we admire and congratulate those who are able to go way beyond the prescribed first year rather than labelling them “weird and creepy”.

In reality we are all just muddling through, doing our best with whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.  We emphasise with the struggles and dilemmas that others face and respect the choices they make.  The friends and acquaintances I have made since becoming a mother have only ever been helpful and sympathetic. The idea that we are warriors taking pot shots at each other is a digital fantasy.

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